English 190

Research Seminar: Black Rhetoric: From Douglass to Obama


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
6 Spring 2010 Best, Stephen M.
Best, Stephen
TTh 9:30-11 301 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

The book list is tentative. It will likely include the literary works and speeches of the following authors: James Baldwin (The Fire Next Time); Amiri Baraka (Dutchman, “The Screamers”); Angela Davis (The Meaning of Freedom); Frederick Douglass (1845 Narrative); Zora Neale Hurston (“Characteristics of Negro Expression”); Barack Obama (Speech on Race); Ishmael Reed (Mumbo Jumbo); Booker T. Washington (Up from Slavery); Malcolm X (“The Ballot or the Bullet”).

Description

Black rhetoric has proven by turns incendiary and inspiring of late. This course will explore the oral and rhetorical traditions of African Americans that have played a significant role in the shaping of national culture and history, i.e., work songs, spirituals, blues, jazz, as well as prayers, sermons, and speeches. These forms reflect the struggle of African Americans for a meaningful freedom; but in subjecting our texts to rigorous formal analysis we will strive to remain open as to whether that freedom dream was for inclusion, or for something altogether more radical. We will attempt, that is, to read and hear in this material both what is expressed with a view to persuasion and what is not – the room that black culture allows for a “telling inarticulacy,” as Nathaniel Mackey has phrased it (a “frustration with and questioning of given articulacies, permissible ways of making sense”).

There will be a great deal of listening in this class to both black music and speeches; for texts that predate the invention of sound recording, our examples will be drawn from available published sources.

English 190 replaced English 100 and 150 as of Fall '09. English majors may fulfill the seminar requirement for the major by taking one section of English 190 (or by having taken either English 100 or English 150 before Fall '09). Please read the paragraph on page 2 of this Announcement of Classes for more details about enrolling in or wait-listing for this course.

Please click here for more information about enrollment in English 190.

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